1992, 07/04. Breaking and Entry for the Saints

These journal pages form the background of my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which is available as a Kindle book or in paperback.

I wrote this while I was guarding the Staten Island house, while everyone else was at a meeting in Philadelphia. It’s a review of my life in the Church of Bible Understanding, past and present. There are a lot of good insights in it. This was 1 year and 2 months before I left.

July 4

Independence day (!) (?) I am now entering my third day at Staten Island, though I suppose it is to be a half day. (Actually, this day turned out to be a whole one too and I left to go to Woodruff at 9:30 the next morning.)

Note at top of page: 

Don A. left today. He jumped out of the van on the Turnpike. (This was on the way to a meeting. Apparently he wasn’t too excited about being there. He was a new brother)

[We pulled over on the Turnpike. I don’t remember why we stopped, maybe there was a noise and the brothers wanted to check the tires. At that moment, Don threw open the sliding door on the side of the van and charged up the embankment and was gone. He looked like he was fleeing for his life. If he had hadn’t been so swift, the brothers would gone after him to try to talk to him, but Don was out of sight and into the bushes within seconds. (This is on the top of the page, but it happened the day after, when I went to the meeting.)]

Last night we had a little adventure, if you can call it that. Chuck and Joy got locked out of the bus lot and couldn’t get the bus for tomorrow’s meeting.

[There was a parking lot in Staten Island where the church rented space to park the buses. It had a high chain link fence around it and a small shack where, during the day, someone was on duty. Joy climbed the fence and went inside the guard shack. I could see her through the window, looking at the keys on the wall, trying to find the key to the lock for the gate.]

So all three of us went to the lot to see if we could read the phone numbers on the sign on the fence, in order to call the owner of the lot, so he could come and open the gate. I even gave Joy a boost over the fence and for a moment I felt as if I were in a spy movie. We had no success in our venture, so we came back. (I was also secretly listening to Radio France when I was alone in the van. Shades of my future underground life in the lofts?)

When we were back at the Staten Island house, they wanted to mount a second try, this time to break in by cutting the chain on the gate. I backed off because I thought this was breaking and entry. I got scoffed at and two sisters went in my place. End of story.

Except that this morning, Liz had a comment for me, after I asked her if they had success in getting the bus out last night. She said, “Didn’t Chuck talk to you this morning?” I said no. She said, “The question was, ‘Why are you so all there when it comes to your own things, but unwilling to help the saints in their hour in need?’ ” I tried to explain by saying I was unwilling to break and enter. And she responded by saying that she didn’t want to get into it.

The phrase, “The question was…” makes me wonder if the message came from Brother Stewart. I have a lot of calculations about how I am going to get it for this. I was unwilling to cut the chain on someone else’s gate, but the circumstances won’t be dealt with in my answer (but anybody else can use and speak about the circumstances), just my unwillingness to “help the saints.” I imagine a no-win situation for me and that my whole record will be brought in as evidence against me.

[The following is a little story I wrote about this episode, as if I were writing a novel, which is one of the ways I sometimes considered writing my life story. In this story, I was being questioned by the brothers for my behavior during the incident at the bus lot.]

They had time and Jim was summoned by five of the brothers. They were pelting him with questions about last night’s episode. Why this? Why did he not do that? When Jim tried to explain that it was because he was unwilling to break and enter, they said, “That’s circumstances! We don’t want to hear circumstances. You are trying to draw us into circumstances. What’s the real issue?!” And they went on, asking him more questions – about circumstances, of course, which they were quite free to do as they wished. But they also asked questions about his attitude. It was like Jim’s whole history, his whole life flashed before his eyes. Or at least his recent history, how he had been living in the fellowship the last four years. Jim wondered if this was like the last judgment. Judgment without mercy. He began to turn pale and he felt like he was going to throw up. His knees began to quiver and he wondered how long he would be able to remain standing.

The pounding of the questions was like a bombardment. The questions came one after another, without even a pause for Jim to respond. (The effect it had on him was to make his mind race, as he worked to try to answer each question and to explain.)

What angered Jim was that he didn’t have time to reply. Each question was an accusation. And he was repeatedly tried and found guilty in the split second interval between the questions. And each question felt like getting punched hard in the chest.

But Jim was forgetting that the brothers didn’t want a to find out his side of the story or to hear any of his answers. The only purpose was to beat him for not complying. The question marks at the end of the barrages and tirades were misleading. He knew that from experience. But in the middle of these things, it’s hard to remember that. He felt that if only he had a chance to explain himself. He couldn’t do the human thing of wanting to justify himself, but this wasn’t normal human behavior. Or then again, it was. It just was not the give and take, question and answer session it appeared to be on the surface.

[Another little story. This one is about how it was impossible to have relationships in COBU or for brothers and sisters to show interest in one another.]

Jim walked to the van to see the sisters off to the meeting. Not that there was much he could say or offer. He looked at Haroldyne and said, “Do you want me to close the door?” Melanie, who was sitting behind her, quickly darted her eyes to meet his. Nothing, I guess, happened in that silent moment. Nothing could, really. Jim did his best to ignore it and she remained quietly facing forward as if nothing had happened. And Jim also remained standing by the van, as if nothing had happened.

-*-

[I was still guarding the Staten Island house alone. It was rare to get this much free time, alone, in COBU.]

I just called Mom. It was good to talk with her, though we spoke of ordinary things. I wonder why I am striking up a new relationship with her (and why I want to do it). Is it because God is preparing me for her death, or mine, or my brothers? But also, it is just a normal thing to do and I regret not having made contact with my family long ago. It is one of the things in my past that I really hate, about how I lived.

Well, carpe diem. How will I make use of today? Being here gives me a different perspective of my time and my life. I can actually plan out things here. It is a welcome relief from the daily routine. I must secretly admit that I want to have a line open to my family if anything happens to me, which sounds weird (according to the fellowship view). But I thought, when I find myself put out on the street, I will get immensely practical. And things like having a bank account will become very meaningful. That’s what I realized last time, when I got my ultimatum and I was being dangled off the edge of the fellowship. Somehow, I got this really clear way of thinking. I saw myself living “out there” and what it would be like. And I realized how unreal my life is in the fellowship, with no money in the bank. (I just spend my money on junk food and books.) I will find myself out there and suddenly realize what kind of cloud I have been living on. I will realize I should have been a lot more real. I live as though this fantasy will never break up and that it will go on forever.

I took a walk down to the water’s edge to see the tall ships. I missed most of it and could only see some of the big ships through the binoculars. Really majestic. I can see why generations were inspired to go to sea. We say that “all of life is a fraud” and I was sort of “wrestling” with that thought down there. The problem is, this view gives us an arrogant, top of the world, superior and condescending outlook toward everyone and everything. The attitude one has when he possesses “higher” or secret knowledge. And pointing to others, or to other things, as wrong, gives one the smug attitude that he is right.

Well, I have a few more hours here. How to use it? It’s good and bad, this stay here. I have some panic over the idea that “I am doing nothing to secure my salvation.” But notice – I don’t have that feeling when I am working, since then I am covered by the “shield” of the church business and the feeling that I am doing something. This is a problem. It’s unhealthy not having that feeling of doing something useful. Then I feel bad if I draw for an hour (though this is a very relaxing and calming activity), or do something for me. But these endless hours working in the business, isn’t that worse? I don’t even have to think or choose my actions, in a manner of speaking.

I’m sitting on the porch, thinking. I figure I ought to get my book and write down what I’m thinking. Free time is really a problem with me. I feel so bad. I also feel so rushed.

The law. The law is very intense here. I have never lived under such an intense form of law in my entire life. I feel it everywhere I go. It exudes forth from everyone I meet. Yes, we seem to say without speaking, the law is everything. We must obey the law. There are ones who drive and enforce it. And there are others who just seem to be caught in it, who seem to say, “we can’t say this or that,” or, “we can’t do this,” and “I must say this, because it’s the law.” They say it with regret. They seem constrained to do so. Conversation, activity and interpersonal contact are severely limited, to extremely rigid forms. Everyone seems to know the limits. Yet, there seems to be more to everyone than all this. Everyone grits out the lines from between their teeth, but no one really seems glad.

It is an overwhelming burden, yet I seem strangely willing to bend my shoulder to it and to endure it. What do I hope to get from this? Yet also, I very deliberately plan out an underground, alternate life. Little things, like taking walks or snitching a radio program in French when no one is around (or at least when the “watchers” are not there), feeling that this is the way I must be in order to survive. Obey the law outwardly in all my actions. Do some things when I can, being unable or unwilling to “kill everything” as we are directed to do. Feeling that I can only hold my breath for so long and that I am going to burst if I don’t get some relief, namely in the form of some human comfort or activity, all the while secretly fearing, because we are told that we are to look for comfort and meaning nowhere except in Christ.

No human comfort? But what is marriage? On the other end of the spectrum, there are aspirins for a headache and a glass of cold water on a hot day, Relief from sexual desires can only be in marriage for a Christian. The Bible makes no pretension of offering a spiritual cure!

I’m wondering also if Christ is so restrictive as all this or if this is not some anthropomorphized version of Christ, an attempt to make God over in man’s image. But what kind of “anthropos” is he being made over into anyway? Does Christ really want us to live like this? In this case, I am not speaking of our living conditions, but of our interpersonal and inward lives. I severely question the constraints, directives, rules and omissions we live under. It’s not what I really am. And I suspect it is not what the others really are either. It peeps out once in a while. But everyone seems to be under the severe constraint of some all-pervasive and all-powerful law. They say, “Think of the battle, don’t try it again. It’s useless to fight against it.” (Or like the scenario Solzhenitzyn described in the Gulag Archipelago about the new prisoner in the railway car, hopelessly looking around for help from his fellow prisoners as the gypsies go through his pockets. It’s foolish to look to others for help.)

It’s a gospel of constraint. Another word that comes to mind is “belief enforcement.” If it is the gospel and it is so true, the truth that inspires men and enlightens their hearts, why is so much constraint needed and why does  it have to be enforced?

When we were selecting a guard for the Staten Island house, Peter was talking about how he would like to guard, but Greg S. beat him out. Peter says Greg kept a straight face and acted reluctant to do it. You know, how you play the game, “Well, I’d really rather not have to guard. It’s the last on my list, but if nobody else can or is willing, then I am willing.” Knowing full well you’d just love to go there for the day. But if you act like you’re into it, you’ll never be allowed to go. We can’t let anybody enjoy anything in “this life.” Everybody affects an outward attitude of complete disdain for everything worldly, knowing full well that they’d just love a day off for once!

Now the idea is coming to me that I may be going too far. Maybe God is warning me. The thing is, if God is really like this, he may get my body, but he’ll never get my heart! I don’t see how I could. It’s like serving an extremely hard master who’s got me hemmed in on every side, got me coming and going. But how does he ever win the heart that way? And the person who is supposed to submit to God, he serves by constraint and fear, but how could he ever give his heart to a master like that? The heart couldn’t even approach, but continually flies away. He says and does all the right things because it’s death for him if he doesn’t. (Everything here seems to be do or die now. Everything is so serious.) He knows he needs the master, who gives him his food, but somehow the heart is not there. I can understand if Stewart is giving a harsh inhuman view of God. Then I could fathom this. It’s just a man forcefully trying to make me over in his own image and to use me as a cog in some big machine or plan he has. (As a pawn on a chessboard, to change the metaphor. I will be moved about, or sacrificed, at Stewart’s own pleasure. And if I don’t like it, I can easily be discarded. That fear, that hidden threat, is always present and is always implied as a method to keep us in line and I am well aware of it.)

But, if it is God doing this and if God is really like this, well, then I am lost. There is no higher court of appeals then. It is not merely a man at work, but God, who can’t be dodged. No secret areas of reserve can be kept. No room for good honest skepticism and a well-deserved fear and protection of self. The only hope would be some kind of mercy and I can’t see it. (If this is God doing this. But if not, I need mercy anyway.) The mercy, I think, would come in the form of breaking the walls of the heart down. Though I suppose, there are other forms of mercy as well.

Maybe, in a nutshell, this is the essence of it. Where all this is coming from. What the source is. A sight of the source would help me deflect it. (With good reason, if it is just Stewart doing it to us.) Or to just simply beg for mercy. Because if it is God doing this to me, I need big help.

What more can I say? I seem to have gotten to the bottom of what is bothering me. But what to do about it now is another thing.

I have been spending energy, mental energy at least, trying to restructure my life to fit this new mold. [To fit into the ever-tightening constraints being placed upon us.] I figure I will learn about radios, pick up another language. Find alternate forms of exercise. Mostly things that can be done inconspicuously and without owning anything or much of any paraphernalia. They can fit into my life silently and be done surreptitiously, without attracting attention to myself. Such as staying informed about current events.  Something to fit in with this new “loft life” that’s coming. Something resourceful. Because, honestly, the future looks very bleak to me. (The future always did look bleak to me here, but this seems to be an exceptional form of it, with lots of laws, constraints and rules. And with the omniscient presence of Stewart hovering over us – though this is mostly carried out by his toadies. I don’t see how anyone can take it, but they seem to be and they even say they are grateful (sometimes). To me, going to the lofts seems like going to a prison camp. Not that my life was better before, or there was any good to it, except that there were things I liked to do. (Maybe that’s what makes it hard to resist all this. I really have nothing to protect or lose.) A prison camp where I will be constantly monitored. All my activities planned out and controlled. I will be broken down and remolded, especially my mind. I’m pretty scared. And, if I don’t like it, I will be cast off like an avorton, which is about the only thing I fear more.

[The word avorton is from Job 3:16 in the French Bible: “Ou je n’existerais pas, je serais comme un avorton caché, Comme des enfants qui n’ont pas vu la lumière.”  In English this verse is, “Or as a hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants that have not seen the light.” In other words, an avorton is a stillborn or aborted child that is cast off as dead tissue.]

We are listed somewhere as one of the more dangerous “mind control cults” and there is an element of truth to that. This was a 1979 view, of course [The book I read that mentioned COBU was published in 1979], and there have been changes since then. But also, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” [“The more things change, the more they remain the same.”] The underlying flux and pattern of the church, that which gives it its force and drive, remain essentially the same. And we are still grouped around Stewart as the only eye [1] and the only trustworthy Bible teacher, though now he occasionally makes references to other authors.

[1] Stewart referred to himself as the “eye of the body,” coming from how Jesus said,“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” In our church, symbolized by the body, Stewart was the only person who had spiritual sight. We may have had other functions, but only Stewart saw the truth and understood what was going on. It was also implied that Stewart was one of the few, maybe the only person in the world with true spiritual insight.]

This scares me, the way we act about this as a group. When Stewart says something, there are no second opinions. And forget looking to others to bail you out, though officially, this is an acceptable form to use. Stewart could say something to you and you are actually allowed to “ask the opinion of the body.” But invariably, everyone will agree with what Stewart said about you. They are required to. Disagreement is costly and anyone who did would quickly be brought into line. There is very tight control here and maybe this is essential for running an outfit like ours, where we all live and work together, or else it would come apart. But how real is it then, if this is one of the requirements needed to make it function?

Sometimes I think we exist merely as a sounding board for Stewart to expound his theories to. He needs an audience. No one else (out there) will listen. But he is able to rope in an audience by constraint who will believe whatever he says, because they have to and because they don’t bother to check. They are constantly fed and groomed with the idea that they are a chosen few who are hearing the truth in a clearer form than is presented elsewhere. And this feels really good and it must really bolster their pride and give them a privileged feeling. And besides, Stewart is invincible here, so he must also be invincible to the Christian world at large. So this lends support to the feeling that we are learning truths in their most clear form and that Stewart’s word is the final authority on all that has ever been spoken and is the plumbline by which all others may be judged. It feels good to belong to such a privileged elite!

Because what does that make me? Even though I am a nothing and a failure really, I can hide behind this and feel much better about myself!

We can believe that we are one of the very few people on earth to receive this. What a special calling. That vein of thought (and secret pride) has always been running through our group. We are the city set on the hill. Our church has the “spirit of John the Baptist.” This comes in many forms, some of which are no longer in use. But we still hold to that. The fact that most other churches also think they are the right church doesn’t faze us.

I think a lot of this comes from being a loser. We are like Great Britain. Once a great power, it holds to its history and pomp and its royal family, these being some of its few remaining viable exports. They make a big deal out of it because they are going downhill but still want to cling to their glory days and they put too much emphasis on this sort of thing, hiding in it.

It is 5:40 now. Any time I have left here, I’ll just consider a freebie. I thought Greg would have arrived long ago. I had been rushing to do things. Read, shower, ride the exercise bike, draw a little, even pray. I never expected I was going to get to stay here for so long. I guess God figured I needed it. It also shows that I won’t necessarily ruin my life if left to myself. Actually, I’ve done more hurt to myself during the usual structure of things.

There’s been some sun today, but the clouds are beginning to marshal themselves across the sky, voluminous billows of white and gray bringing with them the threat, or promise, depending on your viewpoint, of rain. There are cardinals singing and busy finches that flit around and come to rest on the wires. I like the ambiance here, the openness of the air. The freshness of everything. This is something I really needed. A cardinal is singing in a tree, only 10 feet away from me. This is something I have not seen in ages.

The only reason I am writing the following, is that such exercises help me pray when I am done. (Maybe because then I have been honest and not thinking, let alone praying, the “right stuff,” which certainly has no value and is empty.) Also because my mind is so distracted. I am hardly thinking of anything else or I get involved in reading or other things. Actually reading is a way to sign off, to shelve my mind for an hour or so sometimes (not always though) and I really don’t want to go away somewhere and read about “Christian Heroes of the Holocaust” at this moment. Maybe some other time.

By the way, about escaping. [According to Stewart Traill, we were supposed to be “escaping” this world, by means of obeying his teachings and programs.] There is a certain kind of escaping that interests me. Escaping and seeing hope for my problems. But the kind of escaping where I have to escape from one situation, just to be utilized better in certain tasks and jobs, while the rest of me is just as neglected as ever doesn’t get me moving very far. I need to see “escaping” as a hopeful thing. There are things that I would be involved in without goads and laws. Is there any possibility of a kind of “escaping” which makes me sit up and take notice?

Now, I’m being plagued by marriage, or the lack thereof. It is really getting to me and killing me. I am supposed to suppress it and ignore it while I go and get the church and myself together spiritually. But somehow, that doesn’t work. I don’t know how those loft brothers do it. They all look like they’re under a lot of pressure, except Kevin who seems a lot realer. I don’t know if it’s just because when I see him I think of his trial with Jamie and it is clearly visible that he is suffering. [Jamie was a woman Kevin had a child with during his backslidden and drug-addicted years before he returned to the church around 1989, during a general time of recalling ex-members back to the church. She also returned to the church for a while, but had enough and left, taking their child with her.] Or it is something about Kevin that displays a good level of sincerity and a lack of willingness to hide behind rules and right sayings as coverings to attack others from? I just see an honest, struggling person. The rest of the brothers at the loft look like they have to do this and are being constrained to do so, but would rather have some other choice. But I won’t deny their sincerity toward Christ or their desire to please him. It just looks like a lot of crossing their fingers and a lot of activity and talking. And if I joined in, where would I fit in? I would still have grave misgivings. And really, the only thing that would move me toward going to the loft is a lot of pressure on me about being in the wrong place and about how long are you going to live like that. “Okay, okay, I’ll do the right thing!” (But I don’t have it in me from the heart to join the “loft life.”)

I have some fear about what I might be testifying about myself by saying, “I don’t have it in me,” because the loft life is about doing the ABC’s and loving one another. But of course, that can be done at Red Hook or anywhere else too. But I have an aversion for the physical conditions of loft life and also for the extreme control of persons involved. I just wish there was an acceptable alternate lifestyle that could be chosen in the fellowship. Other electives.

A brother was saying to me yesterday that he is not against “loft life” as such, or it’s not that the church shouldn’t have that. But it ought to be by choice, not by constraint (Since we must move to the loft, or else be in some punishment center of the church otherwise.) Whatever program is going on in the church, our history shows that we must be doing “it.” When the real issue is the ABC’s and loving one another, which is what I am lacking on, though I take stabs sometimes.

Actually, facing that makes me more willing to commit myself to it. This I could do. This would be motivating. Repenting implies receiving forgiveness. I need it. I have desires, even skills for loving one another, and I do believe in Jesus. But I look at the outward substance, that is, “it” and judge myself as being out of fellowship, shameful and just generally hopeless and I end up measuring myself by the wrong yardstick. It also provides a convenient excuse to do nothing right and to live selfishly.

Or, if I do right, then that means I have to go “there.” To the lofts, where I do not want to go. (If I don’t go there, then I am not living right and I don’t really mean it.)

When I first heard of these lofts, a very sick feeling came over me. Especially when I heard the lifestyle described. And all the brothers, I wondered secretly, who dreaded it or who were skeptical, but when Stewart asked them to talk about how living in the lofts in the old days in the church had been such a good thing, they seemed constrained to stand up and chirp about the glories of the lofts and how a return to it would be the best medicine for a sick and ailing fellowship. (Was it good back then? I don’t know, I wasn’t there. I hear good and bad about it. Usually with comments like, “But, I would not like to live that way again.”)

[A little about the lofts in the earlier years in the church, from Mike Montoya’s History of COBU: The church rented several lofts on Bleecker St, Jay Street, Spring St, W. 57th St, E. 6th & Bowery St, and 51st St. Members slept on the floor in sleeping bags, shoulder to shoulder, male and female in allotted areas. Some lofts had over 100 members living in them with only one working toilet. The few married couples that lived at the MTC found privacy difficult to attain. One couple made a kind of canopy tent in the midst of the dozens of sleeping bags around them. The church set up a day care and nursery for the children of members. Meanwhile Traill lived in Teaneck, New Jersey and put his 5 children in private school. ]

I just looked up to the sky and the verse came to mind, “I pommel my body and subdue it, lest I myself should be disqualified.” Is there any significance? Is that what the loft is for? That is reason why the idea was presented. Maybe I do need it and it is God’s plan for me. If so, so help me God. Because I really have deep-seated doubts as to what I am getting myself into.

The other issue is marriage. I guess the right thing to say is that after the brothers get trained at the lofts, then they can start getting married. Not until, not before. The great chemistry experiment goes on. When the solution is heated to just the right temperature, stirred to just the right consistency, then we move to the next stage in the process, perhaps the introduction of a catalyst or some other admixture. (Isn’t this strange? Who ever heard of such a thing, other than here? How did all this begin? How does this still go on?)

I suppose this goes to the crux of the issue again. Is it God or is it man, or some percentage of each? (The latter is what I would be inclined to think.) Then comes the thought, “And you can just afford the luxury to sit back and think and speculate?” My view will be different when I am in it. And in it, I am sure to be soon.

I wanted to write about marriage, “but I can’t seem to get to it.” No pun intended. But that does seem to be the story in more ways than one. I just can’t find the doorway to enter a discussion on it. I am trying to do one of those “by looking at the past, we can better understand the present” things.

“Not until, not before.” I get the feeling that Stewart has the equation all worked out in his mind. Nobody is getting married in his church until things reach this or that level. I think everyone is implicitly aware of this too. So maybe this is the doorway, a link to the past, because this is the way I always remember it to have been. Stewart said there could be no marriages because there was not a right society to present the marriages to, because marriage is a social issue. (The little guinea pigs have not clocked enough mileage on their treadmills. The odometer reading is still way too low. The little laboratory rats have not proven their skill at finding their way through a complicated maze, so we cannot begin the breeding experiments yet. Obviously these are an inferior breed of mouse, unable to solve the maze experiment. Why in the world should they be allowed to breed and raise up a crop of deficient little mice in their wrong mouse marriages? Back to the maze experiment on a simpler level and let’s try to see if they can be trained from there to move up to more difficult mazes.)

Or, we were told we couldn’t marry because we were too lazy. Stewart said, “Don’t try to say that nobody is allowed to get married in this church. The real reason you can’t get married is because you’re too lazy. And she knows it too.” This had to do, not so much with our laziness, as with the fact that we were not driving and accomplishing like Stewart. That was the level at which a brother would be considered “not too lazy,” because, “you have the power. John 1:12!” You have no excuse.

This stuff was really painful and I buckled under it and learned to bear it.

The other side of this that Stewart presented were the inducements to fear the women (or to look bad because we feared – so we wanted to hide, give up and not try) because the sisters were such maneuvering sharks who attacked us on many levels at once, who knew all our weaknesses and used them too. It was considered to be a brother’s fault if a sister was able to use his weaknesses against him, because he was leaving himself open to it by not being on top of everything and five steps ahead of her every second, never letting up, always pushing himself. The moment he let up, the woman would instantly overcome him.

Another variation of this was how we were told we didn’t understand the sisters. And the holy grail, or the big idol, was that Stewart really understood women. (Which I doubt.) And if we weren’t able to understand the sisters in every detail, to have them cornered. And before a word was on their lips, to know it all beforehand and to be able to explain them to themselves. To know them better than they did themselves (a wife, I mean), then we were all washed up. Marriage was impossible for us.

Yes, there were some hints that this ability might be something to grow into as we got to know her, though idea that was more for the “Young Sheep,” being that they were still young. But really, it was expected that we be this way, to possess that Stewart “magic,” and the sisters were led to expect this from any brother who might dare to try. In fact, to outright demand it. This also led to sisters feeling maybe they would never marry, because no brother understood them, “except for Stewart.”

This was another way in which everything gravitated and was drawn off toward Stewart, including our women. Stewart effectively divided the sexes, taking his sword, so to speak, and widened a gap which already existed, but is supposed to be bridged. (Even in the world, they attempt to bridge it.) Ripping it asunder and making it impossible for any normal relationship ever to come about. The sisters on one hand, with their unreasonably heightened expectations and unlowerable standards of what a husband should be. Drawn away from the brothers, who might have been interested in them, relentlessly toward Stewart as, when you come down to it, the only living man on the face of the earth who “understands me” and cares for me. And he began to provide programs for them (as “Gayle Helpers”) and to indulge them with various types of personal attention and to draw them away from those brothers who didn’t care about them at all and obviously showed no interest in them whatsoever. And if they ever did show interest, it was in a “wrong spirit.” Do you want that for a husband? No way. You’d be better off doing without!

I wonder how much Stewart realized what he was causing. Did he ever question his standards? I have the impression he did. He must have, somewhere, questioned. He couldn’t have been that much of an ogre or fanatic. He must have had some feeling somewhere. But, invariably, I always figure, if he did question, he always came up with “Nope, it couldn’t be my doing.” And moved on.

Anyway, Stewart’s teaching was from God, supposedly. Who could question it? I can see this is how we were all led into a trap. Stewart’s teaching “came from God.” Who was to question it? I was imbued with the idea that questioners were just backsliders with weird spirits. But I don’t think I even questioned, or not much. I was willing to bear the burden. Strangely, somehow it sounded right. Maybe because a lot of Stewart’s teaching thrived on or was built on pointing out what was wrong and inadequate with me and I was well aware of that! When I first came to the church, I had just come out of trying and failing to make it in the world and had been grossly confronted with my shortcomings and inadequacies. I used to try to act like I had my life together. I figured I had to act that way, but I knew I wasn’t together, so these things I began to learn when I first came here fit like a hand in a glove. It seemed to be a continuation of the realization of the truth about me. And also, now I was “dealing with” God and I had the vague idea that with God, I was dealing with absolutes, so the idea of Christian marriage being immensely difficult to enter into, let alone maintain, didn’t seem shocking – though it was discouraging. (Of course, it was easier to get married in the “world.”)

Of course, this was already an uncomfortable subject to deal with to begin with. When I thought of marriage, I thought of my parents. I used to say I never wanted to marry because of how they were. (But I always wanted a girlfriend.) But still, this was a force on me, an uncomfortable subject. Here was a reason to push it away then. But I wanted a woman, a relationship and marriage. It was a complex problem, you know, with many things going on. Many forces for and against.

I’m just looking for reasons why I would have been open to Stewart’s views about marriage and what might have made me buy it or to accept it, albeit somewhat unwillingly.

There is actually some relief in finding out what made me do the things I did. Granted, marriage was in effect forbidden. No one broke though the sound barrier and reached the speed of Stewart, so no one was able to get married on the basis he presented. But why did I do or accept things?

Is there any value to thinking about this? It was like getting lost at sea in a rowboat and tossed overboard by a wave. It was a force too big for me, but at least I want to understand why I hit the water head first with my hands over my face instead of on my back. My choices were small during events on a much larger scale. The proverbial drop of free will in an ocean of predestination, with a twist. I could have never gotten married here, right? What if I had been totally honest? And not into pride. Not into an impossible quest for acceptance and fulfilling our church society’s norms in order to obtain it? I don’t know for sure, though I tend to think not.

These relationships, if they had started, where would they have gone? There are several examples, or outcomes, for others who tried. Most relationships that started at the Rescue Mission died off after a meeting with Stewart that soon came afterward. Some left and got married (and returned in some cases). Others, like Lou and Tijuana endured in the fellowship for some years, tolerated somehow, but they went through a lot of distressing episodes and finally left. (All of this is a matter for another writing session.)

Could I have done better than these others? I really don’t think so. I would have had just pain and distress, which I managed to avoid as usual, by being unreal, I suppose.

According to the view Stewart presented, I was better off being in the fellowship unmarried than to be out there, married. I had more of a chance to go to heaven. Outsiders were lost. Really, Mitch and Terry [1] don’t look worse off than me! Actually they are more accepted than I am.

[1] Mitch and Terry were a couple who started a relationship. They left and got married. Now they lived together outside of the Church of Bible understanding and came to the meetings in Philadelphia sometimes.]

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